Archive through September 26, 2003

matha_standun's picture

David,

I've started a new thread on this subject so I can't be accused of hijacking someone else's.

Now that I've thought about it for a whole day and looked over all the Heller texts I have hanging around at home, I can rationalise my feelings to a certain extent.

In a nutshell, then, I don't like it when a prolific and respected writer abuses his or her position and disseminates their own prejudices/political agenda disguised as critical writing.

This extract from Heller's Designing Hate: Is There a Graphic Language of Vile Emotion takes the biscuit as far as I'm concerned:

German Fraktur type (as opposed to other medieval gothics, such as Old English) still evokes iron-fisted authority. The words ULT!, VERBOTEN!, and JUDE! are frightening when spelled out in these letterforms. Actually, anything set in Fraktur, even the most harmless words and phrases, takes on a decidedly ominous look.

I'm sorry, but this is pure propaganda. He should be ashamed of himself for publishing it. Or maybe the publisher should be ashamed.

Anyway, this sort of thing coupled with the tripe in his Swastika book have most definitely turned me off his work.

Matha

hrant's picture

You should read his encapsulation of Lebanon's 17-year civil war in his review of the book "Beirut's Memory" in the previous issue of Print. I wrote a letter to Print as a result (my first ever to them), and they'll be publishing it - probably with some "last word" rebuttal by Heller tacked on.

Although in an email exchange (that ensued as a result of my letter) Heller ended up telling me "we are not on opposite ends of the political divide", I can't read his mind to know what that really means.

Some more "context" here
http://www.underconsideration.com/speakup_v2/archives/001291.html#001291
especially in the comments.

hhp

matha_standun's picture

extracts from:
http://www.underconsideration.com/speakup_v2/archives/001291.html#001291

Perhaps some of my books are written before the information is fully digested, and that is a problem.

I wonder does he mean digested by myself or digested by the rest of the world. It's not very clear. And I like his use of the pasive my books are written.... Acknowlegement of his many researchers, perhaps.

and this is very interesting:

Whatever strikes my fancy seems ripe for something -- article, book, dance, e-mail conversation. I try to find the story in whatever I'm interested in. Telling stories is very important.

He describes himself a curious explorer who writes down his impressions about subjects he's interested in. Totally at odds with his international reputation as a discerning critic of graphic design.

Definitely nice context, Hrant.

Matha

PS what did he say about the Lebanon?

hrant's picture

He basically wrote a Heller's History that skews everything very subtley (the most dangerous way!) towards certain parties.

hhp

plainclothes's picture

does anyone who has been paying attention still
consider Heller a critic or historian?

if we just call him a commentator will it make his work
easier to digest? when I think commentator I think of
all of the interesting but unreliable talking heads on the
news these days. the few of his oddly numerous books
that I do own I enjoy reading. the catch is that I read
them with the title of commentator in mind; if I didn't, I
would be very confused.

hawk's picture

Matha,

why new thread? why "hijacking"?

when i said - i hope that this thread is not going to be like read the text..... - i meant all of us. e.g - "11/9" .



when i asked about your field, history.. - i asked because i studied, a whole huge degree, german history (with design....drawing etc) -

so maybe we can talk about the study of the swastika (the one that commissioned by Smithsonian Institute, 1896) -

so we can talk more about the design's role in political and social life. and not just Heller. or any writer.


but with this kind of attitude - sorry. i'm not going to be part of this thread.




David Hamuel



matha_standun's picture

why new thread?

to avoid confusion

why "hijacking"?

because that's what I was doing.

i'm not going to be part of this thread.

suit yourself.

M.

matha_standun's picture

does anyone who has been paying attention still consider Heller a critic or historian?

apparently so. He's called a critic or historian everywhere I come across his name. His books are heavily disguised as criticism/history. Fooled me anyway.

if we just call him a commentator will it make his work easier to digest?

That's a very interesting question. I suppose it would. And it would be compatible with his image of himself too.

M.

hrant's picture

He writes about history (not just typographic but also political history), so he's a historian.
Just not at all a very objective one.

Kinross is a good type historian - he just doesn't write fast enough for US publishers.

hhp

matha_standun's picture

Just not at all a very objective one.

objective historians are few and far between. Some people would say that it's impossible to be totally objective. I'm all for putting the "in my opinion" back into history. It causes less confusion.

he just doesn't write fast enough for US publishers.

He should borrow some of Heller's researchers. He could publish 5 books a month, then.

Mathew

matha_standun's picture

This thread sucks.

I knew there'd be an anonymous post at some stage.
Predictable as the grass is green, some people.

M.

armin's picture

I'll start by saying that I am a big fan of Heller. There might only be one or two people who know more about graphic design (or many other given topics) than he does. That alone puts him in a category above everyone else

matha_standun's picture

Have you ever heard of jewish (yes, Heller is jewish, so am I) people making propagandist statements of the swastika? Nope.

Heller's propaganda is perfectly compatible with his being Jewish. Have you read the book? He is opposed to the redemption of the Swastika as a symbol. Nothing strange about that.

big balls to tackle such a project and face the consequences

To face the consequences of publishing shoddy work like that perhaps, yes.

I notice you are keen to move the argument away from Heller's writing and onto Heller the man. I've never met him so I prefer to talk about what he's written and leave him and his balls out of it.

Yet, he has tackled too many topics to be disregarded simply because of his volume and productiveness

But we can disregard some of his work because it is poorly argued and seems to have been hastily written. And because some of it is propaganda.

Matha.

plainclothes's picture

"Have you ever heard of jewish (yes, Heller is jewish,
so am I) people making propagandist statements of the
swastika? Nope."

I really don't want to get into this discussion, but...

are you kidding!? are there many groups in the world
with more motivation? no, it's not positive propaganda,
but propaganda just the same.

gerald_giampa's picture

We are in the propaganda business. Are we not?



Gerald Giampa

William Berkson's picture

>talk about what he's written and leave him and his balls out of it.

'Great Sayings from Typofile', vol I. :-)

matha_standun's picture

We are in the propaganda business. Are we not?

Gerald, there is a strong link between typography and propaganda, yes, but they're not one an the same thing. You can design type without having a political agenda. You can certainly write about type and graphic design without trying to convert people to your particular worldview.

Matha



matha_standun's picture

You do want to see my CV, don't you?

M.

William Berkson's picture

ad hominem attacks :-( anonymous ad hominem attacks :-( :-( :-(

armin's picture

> are you kidding!? are there many groups in the world with more motivation? no, it's not positive propaganda, but propaganda just the same.

You are right, I should have worded that differently. Sorry about that.

>I notice you are keen to move the argument away from Heller's writing and onto Heller the man.

Because "the man" is the one writing. It's hard to separate that fact.

Ok, I sense some weird vibe in this discussion. Mostly thanks to the anonymous guy. So I'll just let it be.

Too bad, bacause you make some good arguments Matha.

hrant's picture

Heller, the person, overall: I think he's more of an asset than a liability.

But - big but:

> Have you ever heard of jewish (yes, Heller is
> jewish, so am I) people making propagandist
> statements of the swastika?

All the time. And for very good reason: it's a superb graphic symbol of the Enemy, hence very useful to keep reminding people to be nice to the [erstwhile] Victim.

I wish the Turks had such a symbol that we Armenians could use. It can even be argued (based on speeches Hitler made) that the Holocaust wouldn't have happened if we Armenians had such an enemy symbol available and had used it as effectively as the Jews use the Swastika. On the other hand, media wasn't nearly as good as brainwashing and manipulation as it is now.

So in a way I understand the Jewish desire to keep it Evil, but I can't stand the duplicity necessary in applying it (even though it's part and parcel of such propaganda), I guess because Jews aren't the underdogs any more. Now they have an underdog, who I guess are in turn lucky to have the Star of David as a symbol with as much potential as the Swastika! :-/

But what really riles me up the most isn't the Swastika treatment, it's the blackletter blacklisting. It is a violation of venerable typographic culture to subjugate blackletter to the Jewish cause (no matter if you think the cause is just or not) the way is done with the Swastika. Leave blackletter alone, so that it may flourish again.

> To me it just takes big balls to tackle
> such a project and face the consequences.

What the hell are the consequences when all you're doing is catering the existing power structure?! What would take balls is to publish a book saying the Swastika is socially maligned, that it needs to be give a new chance.

Same with blackletter.
http://www.typophile.com/forums/messages/4077/11682.html

hhp

matha_standun's picture

Ok, I sense some weird vibe in this discussion. Mostly thanks to the anonymous guy. So I'll just let it be.

Don't be chased off by anonymous rubbish, my friend. This is an interesting subject.

Matha

hawk's picture

Matha,

did you read:

1. Malcolm Quinn - The Swastika: Constructing The Symbol ???

2. Thomas Wilson - 1896 - The Swastika, The Earliest Known Symbol ???

3. Norman Brown - 1933 - The Swastika, a Study of Nazi Claims of its Aryan Origin ???

4. Norman Walter - 1939 - The real History of the Swastika ???


did you read?



David Hamuel

hrant's picture

Just tell us what the books say (with the ethnicity of each author).

hhp

hawk's picture

you're great Hrant :-) but.......

but let's see what Matha can tell us. since he studied HISTORY - let's understand the issue: Steven Heller and Prejudice.





David Hamuel

William Berkson's picture

Maybe it's just me, but I don't understand what issue is being debated here. What claim of Matha or of Heller is being contested?

beejay's picture

blackletter or variants...

Just off the top of my head, Seagram's and Firestone.

also, doesn't McDonald's use blackletter?

bj

hrant's picture

> blackletter ... doesn't deserve to be forever usurped by the Nazis.

Well, they stopped usurping it during WWII... Who's usurping it now?

BTW, the Swastika is a very ancient -and equally positive- symbol,
in many cultures. In fact I feel somewhat guilty placing blackletter above it.

--

Brian, Disneyland uses blackletter. But apparently good ol' Walt was white supremacist anyway.

hhp

beejay's picture

Seriously, blackletter is everywhere in the action sport industry --
surf, skate, snow, moto, etc.

Lots of it among the hip-hop crowd, too.

you'll even find it on girls clothing at J.C. Penney or Sears.
can't get more mainstream than that.

I don't think any of these groups are really aware of
the connotations.

Jason Walcott's Baroque Text is amazing, btw. Nice work
Jason!

hrant's picture

> I don't know that anybody's still usurping blackletter.

Heller is.
Sure, others (like some that Brian mentioned) are as well,
but at least they're not friggin' "typographic historians".

> [blackletter] doesn't deserve to be as taboo as the swastika

How can a symbol deserve something?
Who benefits, and how, when a symbol has
strong emotional connotations? And how is
it better for the world if a symbol that
used to represent a positive human concept
continues to be usurped for politican ends
by the victims of the people who originally
usurped it for that purpose, except they've
been gone for over 50 years already?

> hate groups still use it

Hate groups use use blackletter a lot too. And they seem to prefer
wearing the same color clothes as designers. Are designers fascists?

hhp

gerald_giampa's picture

Hrant,

"Brian, Disneyland uses blackletter. But apparently good ol' Walt was white supremacist anyway."
....

Probably a case could be made easily supporting that. I have heard Walt hated children. But then some don't think much of us "old people".

Hrant, I am teasing!

But,
.....
German Fraktur type (as opposed to other medieval gothics, such as Old English) still evokes iron-fisted authority. The words ULT!, VERBOTEN!,and JUDE! are frightening when spelled out in these letterforms. Actually, anything set in Fraktur, even the most harmless words and phrases, takes on a decidedly ominous look.
.......

The words ULT!, VERBOTEN!,and JUDE!

Well, if you look at these words they don't look overly pleasant in Sans Serif either!????

His opinion, his problem.

Usage outstrips form. Earlier I mention propaganda. Later about that! For me Fraktur has nothing evil embodied in the forms themselves. Many words are ugly no matter what the type face.

Especially, cough cough, in bolds.

"Heller" for instance "evokes" something that could be ugly in itself. It does not have a Polly Anna look to it.

For instance, HELL, HELLER and HELLIST. Think about it?

By the way, when you have multiple Zerox copies, are they called Zeroxies, or Zeroxen?

I suppose it is always easiest to blame the medium rather than the messenger. I remember my great distaste for "Pastonchi", not the "nuts", the "type face". Thought it was a "Bread Truck Typeface". Then Dave Farey sent me a copy of a book set in the face, one word, "beautiful". I have like bread trucks ever since! Not many around these days?

Fraktur has thorniness in form. I am surrounded by it in Finnish bookstores. Thorns are certainly a respectable fence. My past life gave me a great deal of time gardening. Most thorns evoke in me a sense of raspberries, blackberries and even the "lonely rose has thorns".

Gardening, bread trucks and typography, there you have it.

Gerald Giampa
Lanston Type Company

matha_standun's picture

The swastika, though? Does graphic design really need a swastika as part of our visual palette of elements? I don't
think anybody is suggesting that. (I hope they aren't.)


Joseph,

Heller goes beyond insisting that the Swastika cannot be allowed to reenter Western design and attacks anyone who exhibits "germanic/ nazi influences" (Heller's words) in their logos and typefaces. He seems to be worried that if we can accept anything German looking, spiky or vaguely similar to something that existed under the Nazis then the swastika will eventually be accepted too.

1.1

2.2.

3. 3.

In 2, the first image is a Flemish SS Divisional badge.
Image 3 is a logo for ZZ Flex skateboards.

In this he goes too far.

Matha

matha_standun's picture

Here are the other SS divisional badges shown by Heller in his book.

badges

I think we're all agreed on not using Swastikas and grenades, but what about arrows, swords, horses, deer, keys and asterisks? Do graphic designers really want Mr Heller breathing down their necks and accusing them of insulting the victims and survivors of Nazi terror every time they create a design that he considers to reflect German/Nazi culture?

M.




gerald_giampa's picture

Martha,

I take it for granted Heller does not like blackberries or roses?

But help me here, why does he not like fraktur? Is he suggesting "typocide"?

Look, I am not sure any of this is socially productive. There is an "emotional blackmail" attached to this issue. I am absolutely against racism. I do not condone the wrongs that can not be made right. They were not my wrongs and they will never be made right.

But currently some of his countrymen are committing "wrongs" that should be

andreas's picture

Remembering the book from Adrian Frutiger the swastika is one of the oldest cultural signs of the men kind like the simple cross and the cycle. You will find it in ornaments all other the world.

greek soil/bottom mosaic

William Berkson's picture

Just as the Confederate 'Stars and Bars' flag is still offensive to African Americans as a symbol of slavery, the Nazi flag, with its central swastika will always be offensive Jews as the symbol of a regime that chose to murder nearly half of the Jewish population in the world simply for being Jewish.

Of course, within the context of a Hindu temple (where I believe the symbol is not in a circle and normally 'rotates' other way) it is ancient and not offensive.

In the West the Nazi swastika is kept alive not by Jews. I have never seen it in any Jewish literature, excepting that on the history of the Nazi period. Where you do see it is with those hate groups who like the Nazis, and in Arab political cartoons - where it is regularly pasted on Israeli leaders and the Israeli flag. I don't think they mean it as a compliment.

The infamy of the Nazi period tarred the swastika for at least a hundred years. Those who use it in the West offend Jews, and know it and don't care.

Fraktur is a different matter. I agree that it is not rational (though understandable) to identify it with the Nazis, and it should not be taboo.

As to brutal symbolism, I don't like it, but it is not an identifying mark of Naziism like the swastika.

I dislike brutal symbolism for the same reason I dislike speech filled with anger. It undermines peace and love.

matha_standun's picture

Matha I do "not" agree "not to design a beautiful Swastika".

I didn't say anything about not designing Swastikas. Fire away. Using them is another kettle of fish.

But help me here, why does he not like fraktur?

German Fraktur, according to Heller, connates hate and iron-fisted authority, frightens people, looks ominous. In a nutshell.

Sounds like my old headmaster's handwriting.

There are better things to do than listen to some nincompoop about the evils of fraktur.

True, but when the "nincompoop" in question is an internationally renowned historian/critic, it's a bit difficult to ignore. And difficult to criticise too, apparently.

Matha.

matha_standun's picture

Those who use it in the West offend Jews

and all the other victims of the Nazis and those governments and peoples that happily helped them in their work. Jews and Nazis were not the only people involved.

M.

William Berkson's picture

Matha, I would hope that all who have a humane fiber in their body would be offended by use of the Nazi flag in an approving way.

The Nazis murdered huge numbers of Gypsies, homosexuals, mental patients, political enemies and anyone else they didn't like. And they started a needless war in which tens of millions (if I remember rightly) were killed. The focus of their hatred and greatest ethnic murder campaign was against Jews.

gerald_giampa's picture

William,
"Just as the Confederate 'Stars and Bars' flag is still offensive to African Americans as a symbol of slavery, the Nazi flag, with its central swastika will always be offensive Jews as the symbol of a regime that chose to murder nearly half of the Jewish population in the world simply for being Jewish. "
.......

You have a good heart. I know that. You do, I see it in your writings.

Naturally you are aware that many American blacks find Jews offensive because of their systematic participation in the slave trade? We have not stopped eating bagels though have we?

Further more what happened to the North American Indian? But we have not given them back their land, have we? Oh, land, but, but, that's much more than a symbol?

Few people are aware of how many Indians lived in America when the white man came. Few know that the white man used biological warfare on them. And some democracy! I am not sure when the Indians were even allowed to vote. In Canada it was the fifties. Possibly the Canadian Indians got to vote earlier than the American Indians.

Anyway, how many Indians do you figure there were? Lots! Far more than half of them were killed. So lets not talk so much of symbols. They are not evil. Mankind is evil. Lets get back to the Palestinians, or the Jewish "state". Heller seems to have much time on his hands. He should do something constructive such as identifying good from evil. The Palistinian question is a short study. But if he simply does not like Germans he should just come out and say so.

Maybe he is a racist, anyone asked?

Furthermore the Swastika has great meaning to other cultures. Also it has great meaning to the European cultures. I am not so sure that it should be "swept under the table". It is offensive to many and it should be. But symbols don't kill people, people kill people. So given Heller's logic we should get rid of people.

Those are the issues that should be dealt with, as Henry Kissinger states, the "National Psychiatric of Cultures". The swastika should remain hanging in every household as a reminder of how terrible man is to each other. Frankly, I do not think things should be forgotten in 100 years, if ever.

Furthermore, most of those illustrations, particularly the first set that Matha exhibited are indeed just plain ugly. They are offensive just because they are. Ugly!

But I could design a swastika that is beautiful and meant as such. Not only that but I would have spiritual justification for doing so. I could also print a beautiful book in Fraktur.




Gerald Giampa

hawk's picture

Matha,

did you read :

1. Malcolm Quinn - The swastika: constructing the symbol ???

2. Thomas Wilson - 1896 - The swastika, the earliest symbol ???

3. Norman Brown - 1933 - The swastika, a study of Nazi claims of its Aryan origin ???

4. Norman Walter - 1939 - The real history of the swastika ???


DID you READ?


DID YOU READ ???????



David Hamuel

William Berkson's picture

>systematic participation in the slave trade?

From what I have read, this is a lie perpetrated by anti-semites. Don't buy it without studying the issue, using sources on both sides.

>[The swastika] has great meaning to the European cultures.

Huh? What?




matha_standun's picture

The Nazis murdered huge numbers...

but not just the Nazis. People all over Europe took advantage of the situation to kill their Jewish neighbours. Some Jews we're killed in Poland after the war when they were released from concentration camps. In Ireland there was a pogrom in 1904 and we took advantage of our war of independence and civil war in the 1920s to disappear all sorts of people who didn't fit into the new nationalist scheme of things, Jews included.

Focusing on the Nazis alone lets the rest of us get away with murder.

William Berkson's picture

Giampa, for example, see the summary of the book 'Jews, Slaves, and the Slave Trade: Setting the Record Straight' here: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0814726380/002-3586758-2216839?v=glance

William Berkson's picture

>Focusing on the Nazis alone lets the rest of us get away with murder.

For goodness sake, Matha (and Giampa) I didn't say that the Nazis were the only ones who have done bad things. I thought Nazi symbols and things wrongly labeled Nazi symbols (Fraktur) were the topic here.

Condemning one evil does not excuse or condone others, whether done by Irish, Americans, Jews or anyone else.

hawk's picture

Matha,

did you read :

1.Malcolm Quinn - the swastika: constructing the symbol ???

2. Thomas Wilson - 1896 - the swastika, the earliest known symbol ???

3 Norman Brown - 1933 - the swastika, a study of nazi claims of its aryan origin ???

4. Norman Walter - 1939 - the real hisyory of the swastika ???



DID YOU READ???????




David Hamuel

matha_standun's picture

For goodness sake, Matha...

Don't worry WIlliam, I wasn't correcting you or suggesting anything about you. I was clarifying what I'd already said. Keep your hair on.

To get back to Heller, then, his focus on Nazi symbols, "Germanic" iconography and Fraktur type lets all sorts of very guilty parties off the hook

Matha

hawk's picture

Matha,

Did you read :

1. Malcolm Quinn???

2. Thomas Wilson ???

3. Norman Brown ???

4. Norman Walter ???


DID YOU READ ????????




David Hamuel

William Berkson's picture

David, What Matha has read or not read doesn't change the truth (or falsity) of what he is saying.

Can you summarize what the books that you mention say on the issues here? I am interested.

matha_standun's picture

My CV:

matha's cv

M.

hawk's picture

William,

sorry. since he studied history. ans since - i guess - he is teaching history - you can't just post "Steven Heller and Prejudice" without knowing the real history of the Swastika!!!!


and he didn't post, let's say : The Swastika and Prejudice.

and then compare what Heller wrote. What Quinn wrote. etc. etc. and then. and only then - we all can learn about the issue. and REALLY talk about prejudice!!!!


[if you want i can email you about the books - but not here]


David Hamuel

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